I have survived a trauma. Though I am standing here today, with a beautiful marriage to a man I love more than anything, a perfect little girl who somehow is almost TWO, a gorgeous home we have been so lucky to have just moved into, and a family who has been blessed with good health (for the most part). . . there are days that the traumas I have overcome, still feel like they are overcoming me.
How do you not let the hard times, the traumatic times, the painful times, or the scary times consume you? How do you pull yourself out of the “dark and twisty” thought trails that so often it runs down? How do you focus on what is going on right now in front of you instead of the fears of hypotheticals and “what if’s” that for someone with anxiety cannot seem to escape?
I don’t have the answers. I am not a professional therapist. I don’t know what you have gone through. I am not giving advice, or telling you this will work for you.
I am sharing what has worked for me, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe you. . . will feel less alone. Less like you are crazy. Less like you are failing. Less like you aren’t good enough because sometimes your brain runs away with anxiety.
I shoot photography. I capture moments that I will look back on and hopefully smile. When I was 16 my husband lost his younger brother after a not so long battle with cancer. He was 14. Our families grew up together and even though at the time my last name was different, it felt as though I lost a sibling too. I have one photo of Kevin and I together. It is actually a photo with myself, my husband, Kevin, and one other friend we grew up with, and to this day are connected with. (He actually helped us move last weekend)
One photo is not enough to capture the memories, the essence of who someone was, or what they meant to you. So shortly after he passed I made the decision to go into photography as a profession. I got a nice DSLR that I didn’t know how to use but would figure it out, and I started shooting.
When my head gets dark and twisty, I pick up a camera. I start shooting photos of my daughter. I take her on walks, or some little adventure to try and capture a fraction of her personality and freeze that moment in time for me to go back and look at a million times. (This is why I have literally tens of thousands of photos) I enjoy finding beauty in what is around me, and what matters most to me.
Another way I try and sort out all of the chaos in my head is through music. I took piano lessons for 12 years and am lucky enough to have the space in our home to now have our keyboard set up and I am playing again. Ugh, re-learning an instrument is aggravating. But slowly, and surely I will get it back. This week Zoe and I have started playing together. And though it probably sounds more like a small dumpster fire while we play and “sing” together it lifts my head a little bit so I can breathe again. Plus watching Zoe try to play and sing with me gives me life.
So, I like to write. I am not a professional writer. I am not an author. I have never been paid for my writing. But I enjoy it. Sometimes my brain works too fast and too scattered it is hard for me to verbally articulate what I am trying to say. So taking the time to sit, and let my hands slowly sort it out while writing it down on paper is soothing to me.
This week I have been struggling with our world. I am an empathetic person. If you are not so lucky to have this “gift” let me help paint you a picture of what it can be like to be an empath. Someone else falls and cuts open their knee…you cry for their pain. Someone else has gone through a trauma…you feel their soul crushed. Someone else have feelings? Yeah…you feel those too. Oh! And you can’t turn it off. So when the world is on fire (both literally and metaphorically) as an empath…you feel the burning in your soul. I saw something this week online about how to be the best empath you can be, by “Care, without Carrying”. I read it out loud about twelve times. Care, without carrying. I need to work on that.
I have noticed a trend over the last few years. For myself, when I feel my lowest. When I feel the most lost. Or when I just can’t articulate what I am feeling I will go through my contacts, and the first name that jumps out at me I will text. Not asking for help, not dumping any of my emotional baggage on them…I reach out and send encouragement. Because what if they can’t articulate their demons either? What if this one text to let them know someone else is thinking of them could change the trajectory of their day? And no, this doesn’t mean I only ever check in or text friends when I am at my lowest. But I do try to pull the focus off of my issues and focus on encouraging others and lifting them up any chance I get.
I ask for help. Not from a neighbor, family member, friend, or mentor. I got myself back into counseling. Because sometimes you need a third party, who is non biased and a pro-fess-ional who can help sort out that jumbled ball of chaos in your head and help you learn how to rewire your brain and the way you think and see situations. I with all of my heart believe that therapy saved my life after we miscarried. It makes me sad that there is such a negative annotation around the idea of counseling and therapy too. . . like, if your arm was broken you would go see a doctor. If your check engine light was on in your car you would take it to a mechanic! Why would we not take care of the mental check engine light too?
I don’t have it all together. I probably never will. I have struggled with my mental health, but I am doing the work to make sure when that check engine light comes on I DO SOMETHING about it. I avoid social media and friends when I need a break. I take mental health days from work when I am about to lose it. I go on the run in eighty degree heat. I do the work to get myself right on the days I am just not okay. And I started putting my mental health higher on my priority list, and I promised myself that no matter what is going on around me or my family, we will get through it. Because honestly, we have already gone through so much already, and we came out on the other side of that.
Don’t be ashamed of asking for help. Don’t let the opinions of others stand in the way of finding the best version of yourself! And if you get knocked down, dust yourself off and get back up!